After another difficult season for the Orioles, there are still many reasons to be thankful.
A year ago, Trey Mancini was merely attempting to get himself into shape after missing the entire 2020 season because of colon cancer surgery and five months of chemotherapy. Twelve months later, Mancini played 147 games, more than anyone but centerfielder Cedric Mullins, and while his statistics weren’t the best of his career, he served as an inspiration to fans who have had friends and family stricken with cancer.
Mancini’s worth can’t be measured by his stats. He wants to win as much as anyone and having gone through three 100-plus loss seasons in the past four, can put losing in perspective.
His courage was recognized with three American League Comeback Player of the Year awards and by an invitation to participate in the Home Run Derby. His second-place finish justified the invite.
This offseason, Mancini has had time to relax, take a European vacation with his fianceé Sara Perlman and begin to prepare for 2022.
In such a downer season, Mancini was a true positive, and here’s hoping that he’ll still be with the Orioles next year.
The Orioles were thankful for Mullins, who became the first player in franchise history with 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases. This month, Mullins won a Silver Slugger award after a season in which he became a full-time left-handed hitter after deciding to stop being a switch-hitter.
First baseman/designated hitter Ryan Mountcastle hit 33 home runs, a team record for rookies and overcame a horrible first month to give the Orioles another player to be thankful for.
Outfielder Austin Hays, who underwent offseason core surgery, played in a career-high 131 games, and played in every game but one after June 15th. The Orioles are thankful to have him playing beside Mullins, his longtime friend.
Starting pitcher John Means gave fans a thrill by pitching the Orioles’ first solo no-hitter since Jim Palmer threw one in 1969. He came within a wild pitch, which could have been ruled a passed ball, from a perfect game. Means, who missed time because of left shoulder fatigue, never blamed the offense for lack of run support or the bullpen for its failure to hold leads.
A difficult season gave a number of new players the opportunity to play in major league games.
The one who made the most of it was rookie pitcher Tyler Wells, who a year ago was an unknown minor league pitcher in the Minnesota Twins organization. Wells, who was a Rule 5 draft pick, has a chance to be a closer for the Orioles next season.
Ramón Urías, who a year ago seemed likely be dropped from the 40-man roster, got his first real chance to play in the major leagues and hit and fielded well enough to continue his big league career as an infielder.
Jorge López didn’t pitch well as a starter, but his late-season relief appearances make him an intriguing possibility for 2022.
The Orioles used a record 62 players, many of whom were thankful to get their first big-league action.
Mickey Jannis became one of the oldest rookies in team history at 33. His knuckleball, which kept him in professional ball, finally afforded him a chance to pitch in the majors after 11 seasons in the minors and independent ball. While Jannis’ only big league appearance might be forgettable for everyone who watched, it was worth it for him.
Manny Barreda waited even longer than Jannis. He was drafted in 2007 and got his first major league chance on September 8th, and picked up a win at 32.
Dusten Knight was another over-30 rookie. He was known for doing backflips on the mound after a save. There were no save chances in his seven games, but he finally made it to the promised land.
So did Conner Greene, who at 26 wasn’t as old as the others but got to pitch 22 games for the Orioles in two stints and in between pitched two games for his hometown Los Angeles Dodgers.
Oriole fans can be thankful for promising players in the farm system, which has been ranked as the best in baseball by MLB Pipeline. Catcher Adley Rutschman and pitcher Grayson Rodriguez could debut in 2022. So could left-handed pitcher DL Hall, infielders Gunnar Henderson and Jordan Westburg, and outfielder Kyle Stowers.
After a bout of myocarditis, an enlargement of the heart, the Orioles are thankful that their top draft choice of 2020, outfielder Heston Kjerstad, looks as if he’ll be ready to play in 2022.
Most important, we at BaltimoreBaseball.com — our publisher, Steve Cockey, our editor, Jack Gibbons, and I — are thankful for our readers, who have made this a record year for our site.
Perhaps in 2022, we’ll have more to be thankful for.
Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB
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